History 101: Education in A Country School at the Trego County Historical Museum

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The school bells are ringing once more in Trego County!

Establishing an education system was one of the first goals of our county’s early settlers. Little one-room schoolhouses, with a teacher and all the materials needed to teach “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic,” were provided by citizens with the expectation that graduates of the schools would become leaders in the communities speckled across the county.

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The Trego County Historical Society offers a glimpse into those early school days at their Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse, an original country schoolhouse located on the grounds of the museum. It was moved to WaKeeney in May 1997 from its original location in the northwest part of the county.

Inside the school you’ll find desks, maps, and symbols marking it as an institution of free public education.  On a dais in front of the chalkboard a teacher would lead two rows of students sitting at wooden desks.

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Of course, education has changed a lot since the 1880s. One-room schools are a thing of the past and many of the academic tools found in the museum’s collection may not be recognizable to today’s students.

The education collection at the Trego County Historical Museum is home to a large archive of schoolbooks, teaching instruments and historical records from our local schools. They offer visitors a lesson in just how important providing quality education in a remote country setting was to early prairie settlers.

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The museum will occasionally host special lectures given by the last of the teachers and students to attend our county’s country schools, and you’ll often find teachers leading their students on visits to the museum to find out more about what life was like for yesterday’s young pupils. It’s a meaningful lesson and a fun trip back in time, too!

Welcome your students back to school with a trip to the Trego County Historical Museum, where they can experience the early days of the American education system on the High Plains of Trego County!

The Trego County Historical Society (785) 743-2964) is located at 128 North 13th Street, in WaKeeney (Exit 128 off-I-70, North 1 ½ miles on Hwy. 283).  Check their website for more information.

 

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Celebrating the Resourceful Spirit of Trego County Citizens

During Trego County’s earliest days a person was required to possess a wide array of skills. Our citizens made their own products for their homes, businesses, and farms and fixed them when they broke down. These resourceful skills aren’t quite as necessary in today’s world, but there are a few craftsmen and women who continue to practice them as a way to a get hands-on experience with the past.

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The Trego County Historical Society will be showcasing these important crafts during their Trego County Heritage Day event on Saturday, August 18th from 1-4pm. Experts from across Northwest Kansas will be demonstrating and exhibiting the skills and techniques required by our ancestors in a “come and go” event that is open to all. You can expect to see—

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Rope Making

Just as it is today, a good strong rope is an important and necessary piece of equipment for all types of jobs. Eric and Angela Wilds and their family will demonstrate how to weave a rope that could withstand the rigors of a busy farm.

Dowsing or Water Witching

Nothing was more important to Trego County residents than finding water on their land, and they turned to dowsing or “water witching” as a way to find just the right spot to dig their well. Dowsing expert Ron Blaesi will explain what it takes to learn this invaluable skill.

Wheat Grinding

Of course, our Trego County ancestors were experts in the production and processing of wheat! Lois Keller will provide a demonstration and information on one of the oldest technologies in world history, and one that is the basis for Trego County’s economy today.

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Tatting

Eilleen Bellairs & Mildred Garner will bring their collection of tatting; a hand-woven, decorative skill that produces beautiful lace-like creations. Tatting was used to decorate clothing and objects in the home, such as pillowcases, and provided a touch of refinement to a family’s life. 

Wool Spinning

Manufacturing fabric from wool was essential for people living in a remote county. Amanda Flax will be on hand to demonstrate wool spinning, a craft typically performed by the women of the family.

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Soap Making

Gwen Urban will be demonstrating the indispensible craft of soap making. It was typical for settlers to produce their own soap for cleaning everything inside and outside the home.

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Purington Fossils

This year, even the prehistoric tale of Trego County will be explored. Glenn Rockers of PaleoSearch, Inc. will be joining us to showcase the unique fossils found across the Trego County prairie, once part of the Western Interior Seaway 145 million years ago.

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Descendants of Capt. Edgar P. Trego standing under his image in the Trego County Historical Society’s new mural.

The New Mural

Don’t forget to stop at the recently completed mural in the museum’s new addition. It depicts Trego County at the time of it’s founding, with a herd of buffalo, a farmstead, a train and a wagon train crossing the vast Northwest Kansas prairie. Looking down upon all this activity are the founders of Trego County; Reverend Robert Collyer, James Keeney, and Albert Warren. They are surrounding an image of Captain Edgar P. Trego, the man for whom our county was named.

Please join us in WaKeeney on Saturday, August 19th from 1-4pm for Trego County Heritage Day! It’s a great event for all generations of the family and a perfect time to share those important family stories with the next generation. Look for the special homemade ice cream demonstration outside at the South end of the museum for a special treat.

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Note: The Antique Roadshow appraisal booth and the leatherwork and music have been cancelled. Watch for other updates on the Trego County Historical Society’s Facebook page.

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Sit Down to a Satisfying Meal in One of WaKeeney’s Many Restaurants

When the stomach starts to growl and you’re looking for a satisfying meal, take the shortest route to WaKeeney, Kansas, where you’ll enjoy a tasty dinner at any of our ten fine restaurants!

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The Brazen Bull

WaKeeney’s newest restaurant is the The Brazen Bull, a family owned restaurant with a bold take on America’s greatest plated meals. Everyone will find something to love on a menu filled with delicious steaks, burgers, sandwiches and salads choices. They’re open for lunch and dinner, so stop in and check out their new décor. (717 S 2nd St./ph. 785-743-2653)

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Dairy Queen

Looking for a cool and creamy afternoon snack? WaKeeney’s Dairy Queen can mix up your favorite soft serve treat in a jiffy. Along with their wide array of sweet treats, our DQ also offers an entrée menu with salads, wraps, sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers. Pair your meal with a shake, malt, or their world-famous Blizzard and you’ll leave with a satisfied smile on your face every time you visit. (521 Barclay Avenue/ph. 785-743-2160)

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Hometown Bakery

Head to Hometown Bakery for fresh baked goods and a friendly smile, too! Their bakers craft everything from a scrumptious pies, cookies, and even celebratory cakes! Get there early to enjoy a donut and fresh brewed coffee while you check your email on their free WiFi. (215 N Main St. /ph. 785-743-6496)

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Jake & Chet’s Cafe/Sundowner Lounge

Fresh ingredients, plus years of culinary experience equals a satisfied diner at Jake and Chet’s Cafe and the Sundowner Lounge. From breakfast to dinner, soup to nuts; chefs Jake and Chet cook the meals they love most. Enjoy a rib eye cooked to order, southern fried catfish, or an all-American burger, and then follow it up with a slice of pie a la mode. (233 S 1st St./ph. 785-743-2211)

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McDonalds

As America’s most iconic roadside restaurant, everyone is familiar with the great menu offered at a McDonald’s. The WaKeeney McDonald’s drive thru window makes it a quick stop, or you can get out and stretch your legs while you order inside in their air-conditioned dining room. (745 S 1st St./ph. 785-743-2911)

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Mike’s Place

Downtown WaKeeney’s hotspot is Mike’s Place, a fun pub where people like to kick back with friends and enjoy a cold beer. They feature regular daily specials of local favorites and always have ice-cold beer on tap and ready for their guests. Stop in at their summer “Cruise Night” events to see vintage cars and chat with their drivers. (111 N 6th St./ph. 785-743-2641)

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Pizza Hut

A local favorite and WaKeeney’s favorite go-to for fast delivery is our local Pizza Hut. Whether you like original, pan or, my personal favorite, thin crust pizza, you’ll get one piled with savory meat, fresh veggies, spicy sauce and gooey melted cheese. Check out their new Wing Street menu for an order of tasty wings and your choice of sauces. (324 S 1st/ph. 785-743-2383 – Call ahead to find out when their buffet is open!)

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Subway

Feel like a meal that’s filled with all your favorite fresh ingredients but you don’t want to do all the work? At WaKeeney’s Subway you can pick the ingredients and let someone else build the perfect sandwich for you in a matter of minutes. Sandwiched inside a loaf of freshly baked bread, your meal will be an easy-to-eat, on-the-go satisfying feast that will get fed and back on the road in no time at all. (718 S 1st St./ph. 785-743-5248)

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Tropical Mexican Restaurant

Take a trip south of the border at Tropical Mexican Restaurant! It doesn’t have to be Cinco de Mayo to enjoy the great taste of authentic Mexican food. You’ll find all your favorites on Tropical’s menu, like the chicken fajitas or burritos, and don’t miss out on a fruity cocktail or Corona. You’ll feel like you’re basking in the sun at a beachside resort when you sit down to a meal at Tropical Mexican Restaurant! (428 S 1st St./ph. 785-743-2219)

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Western Kansas Saloon & Grill

Order up a slice of Trego County history with your meal when you dine at the Western Kansas Saloon & Grill. Housed in one of our county’s oldest buildings, the “Saloon’s” menu offers something for everyone. From steak, pasta, and burgers, to salad and sandwiches; you’ll find a delicious selection of entrees, appetizers, and desserts served up with a drink from their fully stocked bar inside an authentic western saloon atmosphere. And, don’t forget to check out the pioneer themed original art by local artist Madeline Musick decorating the walls. (121 N Main St./785-743-2050)

Plan a trip to WaKeeney soon to enjoy all these delicious meals served in the restaurants of Trego County!

The Trego County Fair is Back, and Better Than Ever!

The event of the summer has arrived in WaKeeney, as the Trego County Fair kicks off another week of friendly competition, exciting rides and fun, fun, fun! Here are just a few of the highlights of this year’s “fair week.” 

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Spirited Games & Competitions

So many games to bring out the competitive spirit in you! Sign up or show up to participate in these exciting games.

Wednesday, July 19

  • Ping Pong Ball Drop (Sponsored by Western Cooperative Electric & Midwest Energy Inc.
  • ATV Rodeo Competitions

Thursday, July 20

  • Force #1 Laser Tag (Sponsored by Trego County Fair Board)
  • Demolition Derby

Friday, July 21

  • Dunking Booth (sponsored by Trego Top Succeeders 4-H Club)
  • Force #1 Laser Tag (Sponsored by Trego County Fair Board)

Saturday, July 22

  • Poker Run Registration & Judging
  • Washer and Horseshoe Tournament (Sponsored by Trego Recreation Center)
  • Muddy Pig Brawl

Sunday, July 23

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Fun on the Midway (Wednesday, July 19 – Saturday, July 22)

The lights of Marriott Amusements Carnival will light up the Midway this year with all the rides that thrill and excite the crowds. Traditional rides and new ones will fill our fairgrounds, along with a hot new addition that will take you on a virtual rollercoaster ride from JNT Company out of Manhattan, KS and sponsored by WaKeeney Travel & Tourism. Arm bands are available from 6-10pm every night of the carnival.

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Exhibitions

Throughout the week participants in the Open Class, 4-H and the FFA exhibitions will be putting their best work in front of expert judges. From garden produce to farm yield, livestock shows to baking and arts and crafts projects, spectators can learn more about what our industrious citizens have been working on all year long. Grand Champions and Reserve Grand Champions will go on to compete at the State Fair later in the year. Look for these livestock shows in our fairgrounds arenas:

  • Thursday, July 20 – Horse Show, Bucket Calf Show, Beef Show
  • Friday, July 21 – Swine Show, Meat Goats Show, Sheep Show, and Open Class Goat, Sheep, Swine & Bucket Calf Show
  • Sunday, July 23 – 4-H/FFA Livestock Auction

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Food, Drink, and Socializing

Come hungry and thirsty because all your favorite fair food returns! You’ll find delicious treats on the Midway and all across the Fairgrounds and, of course, the beer garden and Scout food stand will be ready to keep you filled and hydrated. Take a look at these other special treats that will be offered throughout the week.

  • Community BBQ (Wednesday at 5:30pm for the first 1,000 people, sponsored by Trego County Economic Development)
  • Free Ice Cream (Wednesday at 6:30pm, sponsored by Eagle Radio)
  • Root Beer Floats (Thursday at 6pm, sponsored by Trego County Farm Bureau Assn.)
  • Watermelon Feed (Thursday at 8pm, sponsored by Jake & Chet’s)

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Great Concerts

Get ready to dance and sing the night away in the Grandstands and on the free stage! We’ve got four nights of great live music to enjoy this year.

  • Wednesday, July 19 – Donovan Lee and Taylors Bayou will perform Southern rock and country on our Free Stage.
  • Thursday, July 20 – FlatSpin takes us back to the ‘80s on our Free Stage.
  • Friday, July 21 – Country artist and American Idol contestant Josh Gracin will take to the Grandstand stage.
  • Saturday, July 22 – Local favorites Jimmy Dee & the Fabulous Destinations returns to our Free Stage to play the best in ‘50s and ‘60s music.

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The Grand Parade

Join us on the streets of Downtown WaKeeney on Saturday, July 22nd at 10am for the Grand Parade to see the horses, floats, tractors and people of Trego County march through the streets on their way to the last day of fair week. Many of the alumni from TCHS will be returning to WaKeeney to celebrate at the all-class reunion and stores will be open up and down Main Street.

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Later in the day things get dirty at the Muddy Pig Brawl at 5pm, where competitors chase down a slippery pig in ankle-deep mud. TCHS alumni teams will be showing their team spirit during this fun event.

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Come out to the Trego County Fair and “Let the Good Times Grow!”

 

Where to Celebrate Independence Day in Trego County

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The Fourth of July holiday is here and it’s time to light up the night! Trego County is getting into the patriotic spirit early with two firework displays on Saturday, July 1st.

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Cedar Bluff State Park

Head to Cedar Bluff State Park for day of fun in the sun and night of beautiful fireworks. Come for the day, or bring your tent or RV to enjoy the many fun activities to found in a natural prairie setting.

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Water ski, swim, hike, and fish throughout the day, then as the sun goes down set up a chair and watch the firework display high in the sky. The show starts at dark on the Northside (Bluffton) Park and it’s brought to you by the Cedar Bluff Lake Association. Vehicle permits will be required.

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WaKeeney Mini Speedway

For those who like a shot of adrenaline on their holidays, head to the WaKeeney Mini Speedway!

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Roaring engines and intense competition will energize the crowds when the racers take to the oval dirt track. Racers are both experienced and novices and there are several classes of cars and ranges of ages of the drivers.

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The races begin at 5pm on Saturday, July 1st, with the fireworks display following afterwards. This will be the place to watch fireworks in the city of WaKeeney, and we’re expecting another great show this year.

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Celebrate the birth of this great nation with the people of Trego County and watch fireworks light up the sky at Cedar Bluff State Park and the WaKeeney Mini Speedway this Saturday, July 1st.

Happy Fourth of July!

Hittin’ the Historic Roads of Trego County

Summer vacation is here and it’s time to hit the road and explore the beautiful Great Plains of Western Kansas!

There are many wonderful places to visit in Trego County—the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, Cedar Bluff State Park, and Downtown WaKeeney—but did you know when you travel across Trego County to see these great places you are actually traveling on historic landmarks, too?

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Smoky Hill Trail

When the very first travelers began crossing the Great Plains they were mostly on their own. No maps, no guidebooks, no hint of where the next turn would take them. Word-of-mouth was their guide in those days, and the unmapped, 500-mile route they typically followed was called the Smoky Hill Trail. It was fraught with danger. Word of deadly animal encounters, dehydration, and hostile native people protecting their land soon gave the route a bad reputation and people traveling west determined a longer, northern route was a better option.

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The Butterfield Overland Trail

Seeing opportunity in the increasing desire to “Go West,” an entrepreneur from Atchison, KS named David A. Butterfield set out to establish a faster route to Denver. He mapped a route across the Great Plains in 1865 and built several “home stations” along the route (Trego County claims six of those stations; Bluffton, Stormy Hollow Station, White Rock Station, Downer Station, Ruthton Station and Castle Rock Creek Station). Soon he was advertising passage on his Butterfield Overland Despatch (BOD) stagecoach for $175 a person and fifty-cents to a dollar for a meal.

Trego County claims a 21-mile stretch of what was billed as the “fastest route to the Colorado goldmines,” and modern-day historians can visit commemorative guideposts placed along the trail’s route in the 1960s at points where today’s north/south roads intersect the BOD trail. The guideposts extend beyond our county’s borders from Ellsworth, KS, to the state line, providing modern-day adventurers the opportunity to follow in the path the early pioneers took across our state, with the exception of the first 63-miles.

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US Highway 40

For those who love easy drives along scenic country roads, consider taking the road less traveled and turn your car down US Highway 40.

The once paved road was at one time the main artery between Ogallah, WaKeeney, and Collyer, Trego County’s largest towns. Now, it provides travelers an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the sights, surrounded by shade trees in some spots and wide open landscape in others.

Built in 1926, Highway 40’s route roughly followed the same course as the Butterfield Overland Despatch Trail. Its construction marked a seminal moment in history for travel across America when larger, more reliable cars allowed more people to hit the road than ever before, and transcontinental movement was more accessible to everyone.

During America’s “Golden Age of Automobiling” in the 1950’s, Highway 40 carried more traffic than any other transcontinental highway in the United States, even gaining recognition as a Blue Star Memorial Highway in 1951.

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Interstate 70

Today, the road most traveled is Interstate 70, a road first envisioned on the battlefield of World War II.

During his time leading the troops in Europe, Kansas native President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the value of an interconnecting, paved road that could support military movements, trade, and public transportation needs. He commissioned his teams to map the fastest and most easily traversed routes possible and they found the Great Plains’ landscape fit the requirements perfectly. In 1956 construction began on “the Main Street of Kansas,” and ever since it’s played a huge role in our county’s communities.

Stop by Eisenhower Park at WaKeeney’s West Exit #127 to enjoy our monument to the president who brought American travelers to our city’s front door.

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Enjoy the Journey, and the Destination

People say that it’s not only the destination, but also the journey that makes a trip worthwhile, and those words ring true when traveling over the historic roads of Trego County. You will find that whichever route you choose you’ll be following© in the footsteps of people who helped develop this great nation over the last 150-years.

This summer set out on a trip through time to explore the historic roads of Trego County!


Check out these great WaKeeney hotels and campgrounds the next time you travel on these historic Trego County Roads.

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Best Western Plus WaKeeney Inn & Suites

525 1st St., (785) 743-2700

Best Western Plus WaKeeney Inn & Suites is located on the north side of I-70’s West Exit #127, has an indoor pool and fitness center, laundry facilities, a business center and free WiFi in every room. Adjoining rooms are perfect for families. A full breakfast includes pastries and waffles, fresh fruits, cereal, yogurt, juice and 100% Arabica coffee.

Bryant Motel

219 Barclay Ave.,/I-70 Business Loop, (785) 743-5202

Bryant Motel 50-year old motel is a classic roadside lodging option. It’s located on WaKeeney’s I-70 Business Loop and offers cable TV and WiFi Internet access, free local calls, a microwave and a refrigerator. The locally owned and operated motel has clean, comfortable rooms at reasonable rates, and pets are welcome, too!

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Butterfield Trail Bunkhouse

23033 T Road, (785) 769-3194

Nature lovers, history enthusiasts, hunters and fishers love the Butterflied Trail Bunkhouse. This year-round, country retreat is located on the Butterfield Overland Despatch Trail near the Smoky Hill River and Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, and wagon ruts from the Butterfield Overland Despatch stagecoaches can be found nearby. The Bunkhouse is a non-traditional bed and breakfast set on a farm, with wildlife all around. The bunkhouse sleeps up to four and has a full kitchen and bath, with microwave, coffee maker, and cooking utensils. A different breakfast is provided each morning; with entrée, fruit, pastries and coffee and juice, with every effort to accommodate special dietary needs.

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Econo Lodge

705 South 2nd St., (785) 743-5505

Econo Lodge is a pet-friendly, affordable hotel, clean, with comfortable rooms that include coffee makers, free WiFi, televisions and mini-fridges. There is on-site parking for buses and RVs and we proudly support “green” hotel practices. Econo Lodge is located on the south side of I-70 at WaKeeney’s West Exit #127.

Kansas Kountry Inn,

223 S 1st St./I-70 Exit #127, (785) 743-2129

Kansas Kountry Inn located two blocks of I-70’s west Exit #127 next to Jake and Chet’s Café. It’s a moderately priced motel with WiFi Internet access and “at-door” parking for vehicles and boats. Pets are also welcome.

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Photo courtesy of Expedia.com.

Super 8

709 S 13th St., (785) 743-6442

Located off I-70 at Exit #128, all the rooms and suites at Super 8 include en-suite bathrooms, TVs, free WiFi, and a mini-fridge and microwave. A complimentary continental breakfast is served every morning and other on-site amenities include a laundromat, a business center and free parking for large vehicles. Kids 17 and under stay free with an adult.

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WaKeeney KOA Kampground

25027 S Interstate, (785) 743-5612

The WaKeeney KOA Kampground is full of amenities for RV and traditional campers. Large pull-thru sites accommodate RVs up to 80’ and grassy tent sites are large and private. The cabins are located near laundry, restroom and shower facilities, and WiFi is accessible throughout the park. A swimming pool and dog park are on-site, and “Sophie’s Kitchen” serves a pancake breakfast every morning and ice cream every summer night. The campground is the recipient of the KOA President’s Award & the KOA Founder’s Award each year for six years in a row (2012-2017). The KOA campground is located south of I-70’s West Exit #127

“Biking Across Kansas” Cyclists Roll Into WaKeeney

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There’s nothing like hittin’ the road for a long distance ride along our beautiful Trego County landscape. On June 11th and 12th over seven hundred cyclists will do just that as they continue their ride during the annual “Biking Across Kansas” (BAK) cycling tour.

 

This is the second time the predetermined route has been mapped through our county. Thirty-five years ago, in 1982, WaKeeney played host to the BAK cyclists and we’re excited to welcome them back a second time.

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The group of between 700-800 riders, aged 9-90, will ride into town from the south on Hwy. 283, spending the night in WaKeeney before continuing on northeast to their next stop in Plainville, but not before seeing the best our county has to offer when we welcome them at our “Party in the Park!”

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“Party in the Park”

The event will be held at the Swimming Pool Park from 1pm to 8pm, with activities, food, drinks, and lots of fun ready for all! WaKeeney’s restaurants and many of our retail stores around town will stay open, with special hours on Sunday, and a “pop up” food court sponsored by local businesses and organizations will be set up in the park from 1-8pm for riders and spectators. Look for these yummy treats and their sponsors at the park:

  • Beer garden and brats – Eagles Lodge
  • Hamburgers & hot dogs – K-18 Baseball Teams
  • Bottled water, lemonade, ice tea & Snacks – Keeney Queens Red Hats
  • Beef/chicken & noodles, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and bread – Leap of Faith
  • Smoked meats & sides – Rods and Ribs BBQ
  • Snow cones – Sno Days
  • Homemade baked goods, pies, cakes, & cookies – Trego County 4-H Clubs
  • Soft-serve Ice Cream – Trego Manor
  • Sloppy Joes, salads, & desserts – United Methodist Church, Eve Circle (serving from 5–8pm)

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June 11th Activities

In addition to that, participants can cool off at the WaKeeney Water Park & Pool (1-8pm), visit the Trego County Historical Museum (1-6pm, free entrance), enjoy a handmade soda at Gibson Healthmart’s old-fashioned soda fountain (1-5pm), or attend a wine tasting at The Studio & Kansas Art Gallery, where wines from Shiloh Vineyard, Trego County’s only vineyard, will be featured (1-5pm).

Later in the day there will be a Washer Tournament sponsored by WaKeeney Federated Wrestling Club at the Swimming Pool Park and the band “Gypsy KS” (formerly Flatland Band) will play bluegrass, country and rock n roll at a free concert (1–8 pm and sponsored by Biking Across Kansas, WaKeeney Lions Club and WaKeeney Travel & Tourism.)

Overnight indoor and outdoor camping accommodations are being readied at the Trego Community High School gym and practice field, and of course our local hotels and campground are happy to provide comfortable accommodations, too.

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June 12th Activities

The next morning the people of WaKeeney will say good-bye to the cyclists at the Trego County Fairgrounds’ Commercial Building at a biscuits and sausage gravy breakfast sponsored by the Trego County Historical Society from 5:30-8:30am. (Vegan options available.)

It’ll be an exciting weekend as WaKeeney welcomes cyclists from across the United States in their third stretch of the annual “Biking Across Kansas” ride on June 11th and 12th. Join us in cheering them on at the Swimming Pool Park, where you’ll be able to get in on the fun, games, and great food that will showcase the best of Trego County!

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